"I was a prisoner in my own house, isolated and cut off from my family."

Rehana* recently sought help using Safe Spaces. This is her story.

I don’t think I fit any of the preconceived ideas people have of someone who is a victim of domestic abuse and honour based abuse. I’m 47 years old and I’m a bank manager. But the truth is that for years I didn’t admit I was in an abusive relationship – I think that was because I went into survival mode. Now I think, you are an intelligent woman, how did you not realise for so long?

I was married to my ex-husband for years before I finally realised that I needed to leave. I have three children and it was as they got older and started asking me things like, ‘how come dad is allowed to do things and you’re not?’, that I realised how abusive the relationship had become. There was always one rule for him and another for me.

Domestic abuse is always shown as physical but in my case it was the way my ex-husband controlled my life. When I look back I think, ‘why didn’t I argue back’ but at the time I was so used to the restrictions he put on my life that I just accepted it. For example, I was never allowed to socialise with his family – he said I would get too tired. He would hide my keys to stop me leaving the house and then pretend he hadn’t taken them. I thought I was going mad. I was a prisoner in my own house, isolated and cut off from my family.

One time he did physically grab me and throw me to the floor and I thought, ‘I don’t want my children to see this’. That’s when I got support and he left our home.

When I told my parents, my mum was very angry. Everyone told me I was bringing shame on the family. I was under a lot of pressure to have him back. I felt very let down – I had told them everything and still they expected me to live with him. In the end, both sides of the family decided it would be best if my ex-husband went to live with my parents in order to hide the real situation. After that I didn’t really see them anymore.

My mum passed away in 2021 and I didn’t see her before she died – that’s what he also took away from me, my family. Even when my mum died, my ex-husband told my children before I even knew – it became part of his power game and he was still controlling my life.

Although I had a restraining order against my ex-husband, he started to turn up in my local area a lot which was very frightening. One day when I went and did my local shop, I bumped into him. This was very odd as he lived the other side of town. When I went to leave the supermarket, I noticed he was waiting outside in the carpark.

I thought he’s stalking me, what is he going to do? I waited for quite a while but I was getting really worried as he wasn’t leaving. I knew Morrisons was part of the Safe Spaces scheme so I felt confident in asking for help. The manager and staff were brilliant – they extended my parking and let me stay as long as I needed to.

I felt able to ask for help because of Safe Spaces – I knew they would understand and support me.

It made such a difference that day. Safe Spaces was like a safety blanket – I knew I would be safe and that the staff would believe me and were trained to help.

My advice to anyone else going through something similar is if you need help, go to a Safe Space, don’t hesitate - you will be believed and they will help you. I’m now looking forward to getting my life back and planning for the future.

How to access Safe Spaces in pharmacies and banks